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Ravens vs. Bengals potential X factors: Time for Keaton Mitchell to be unleashed

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By: Joshua Reed

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This AFC North clash could be decided by contributions from a handful of players.

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 on Thursday night. They are favored to get back on track in this AFC North showdown after dropping one to the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. When these two teams faced off in Week 2, the Ravens came away with a decisive 27-24 victory and are now looking for the series sweep.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing momentum into a team’s favor or extend their lead. There are a handful of select players who either aren’t being talked about as much or are primed to have a big day.

Below are some of those individuals who could prove to be deciding factors in the final outcome.

RB Keaton Mitchell

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

The undrafted rookie has been the Ravens’ most explosive offensive weapon in their past two games. Despite only touching the ball 14 times over that span, he was able to amass 200 scrimmage yards and score two rushing touchdowns of over 30 yards. Mitchell had a pair of 30+ yard plays from scrimmage and finished with the second-most scrimmage yards on the team (66) on just four touches in Week 10.

On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh all but vowed that he will be more involved in the offense moving forward. That will likely start on Thursday under a national spotlight, against a Bengals’ defense giving the third-most rushing yards per game (136.2) and second-most yards per carry (5.0).

OL Patrick Mekari

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth-year veteran will most likely be making his seventh start of the season and fourth at left tackle in place of All-Pro blindside protector Ronnie Stanley. Stanley was officially ruled out for Thursday’s game due to a knee injury sustained in the second half of their Week 10 loss.

This would be Mekari’s second time starting at this particular spot this season against the Bengals. He performed exceptionally well in the team’s first meeting in Week 2, Mekari finished as the offense’s third-highest graded player according to Pro Football Focus with an overall mark of 75.9.

Mekari will face a daunting challenge against two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, a test he passed with flying colors in Week 2. In the first meeting, Hendrickson— who primarily rushes off the offense’s left side — was held without a sack or quarterback hit. Mekari made several impressive one-on-one blocks against him in pass protection.

He will be looking to bounce back from a rough pass-blocking performance against Browns’ star pass rusher Myles Garrett last week. Hendrickson is banged up after suffering a hyperextended knee in the Bengals’ Week 10 loss to the Houston Texans.

DB Geno Stone

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The fourth-year pro was the Ravens’ highest-graded player against the Bengals earlier this season. He had a grade of 91.1 after recording a team-high nine combined tackles, a pass breakup, and his first interception of the season. That would be just the first glimpse of a sensational breakout season for the 2020 seventh-round pick, who leads the league with a career-high six interceptions.

Although he is no longer the starting free safety after the return of Marcus Williams to the lineup, Stone still sees the field early and often. Against the Browns last week, he still played 67 percent of the total defensive snaps. He finished with five total tackles and a pass breakup, which nearly was his seventh interception of the season.

Stone’s presence gives Ravens’ Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald two ballhawks to roam the backend. It frees up second-year defensive back Kyle Hamilton to be deployed in the hybrid nickel safety role, where he’s been a game wrecker dating back to last season.

WR Rashod Bateman

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The third-year pro is long overdue for a breakout game and even though his stats don’t reflect just how impressive has been as of late, his film does. Bateman has been consistently creating separation with both speed and crisp route running. When the ball has come his way, he’s made several snags for crucial conversions.

He has yet to record more than three receptions or even reach 50 receiving yards in a single game this season. However, Thursday could be the start of the same second-half of-the-season surge that Odell Beckham Jr. has been on the past two games. Beckham has touchdowns and 40+ receiving in back-to-back weeks for the first time all season.

While there is only one ball to go around in the passing game, it’s time for Bateman to start getting rewarded more frequently for all the hard work he has been putting in over the last month.

OLB Kyle Van Noy

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Van Noy has been essentially taking turns with fellow veteran edge defender Jadeveon Clowney each week with who is going to have the monster game as a pass rusher. Last week it was Clowney, who had two sacks, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits.

The week prior against the Seattle Seahawks, it was Van Noy. He recorded back-to-back sacks at the end of the first half and finished with a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and a forced fumble.

The Bengals’ offensive line is poor in pass protection and just gave up four sacks to the Texans this past Sunday. In a plus matchup, the rejuvenated 32-year-old could be poised to have the pendulum swing back his way on Thursday night. He did miss one day of practice with a groin injury in the abbreviated week of preparation.

CB Rock Ya-Sin

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The fifth-year pro will likely see extensive playing time for the second consecutive game with cornerback Marlon Humphrey listed as doubtful to play. Ya-Sin was the Ravens’ first post-draft signing and was slated to be the starter opposite of Humphrey. Then, a minor knee injury sidelined him for most of training camp. That opened the door for Brandon Stephens to seize a starting role and break out this season.

Nevertheless, the former 2019 second-round pick has proven to be a physical press-man corner, whose game on the perimeter is similar to Humphrey’s. Stephens doesn’t travel and stays primarily on the right side of the defense. Therefore, when Bengals’ wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase lines up on the left, it will be up to Ya-Sin and veteran Ronald Darby to limit his impact.

In the first meeting between these two rivals, Chase was held to just five catches on eight targets for 31 receiving yards. Ya-Sin made sure he stayed out of the end zone with a clutch pass breakup, preventing what looked like it was going to be a touchdown catch.

Originally posted on Baltimore Beatdown – All Posts

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